Frequently Asked Questions - Sri Lanka & Maldives

Answers to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below should help you prepare and plan for your trip to Sri Lanka and Maldives with us. However, if you have other burning questions to ask, please feel free to contact us! Email: holidays@tikalanka.com

What is the weather like in Sri Lanka?

The southwest monsoon affects the south, southwest and Hill Country during May/June and again in September/October, so there is a convenient 'window' in the monsoon during late July and August, usually! The monsoon, when it comes, does not normally last for very long and the ground dries very quickly. Temperatures throughout the island do not vary much during the year, since altitude is the only variable that directly affects air temperatures. Generally, the coastal belt, Cultural Triangle area and southeast dry zone are 27-32°C, Kandy and lower Hill Country are 20-25°C (slightly cooler at night), and Nuwara Eliya and the upper Hill Country are 15-20°C (but much cooler at night). Please go to Climate & Weather for more details.

When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

In the south/southwest and Hill Country, the best period is from November to April after the southwest monsoon has finished. However, the north and east are affected by the northeast monsoon from December to February and are dry but hot from April to September. Please go to Climate & Weather for more details.

What are the flight schedules to Sri Lanka?

A non-stop daily flight between London Heathrow and Colombo with SriLankan Airlines takes approximately 10 hours and 45 minutes outbound and 11 hours and 30 minutes inbound. There are several daily connections from Colombo to Malé (Maldives) each way and the flight takes one and a half hours.

Daily flights to Colombo and Malé with Emirates from Birmingham, Dublin, Glasgow, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Manchester or Newcastle, with a change of aircraft in Dubai, take at least 12 hours outbound and 13 hours inbound, depending on the time and day of travel. Flights with Qatar Airways from London Heathrow or Manchester, with a change of aircraft in Doha, take a similar time.

Various other airlines, including Oman Air, Etihad, Turkish Airlines and Jet Airways, fly from London Heathrow to Colombo.

My wife and I are 56 and 60 respectively and are quite fit for our ages. We want to climb Adam's Peak, but just how hard is it?

The path from Nallathanniya (Dalhousie or Delhousie) to Adam's Peak contains some 6000 or more steps in its 1000-metre or so ascent. The steps vary from well-kept, shallow treads to rocks and boulders, and in some places the gradient is very steep. However, if you are fit and take regular exercise then the climb should take 3-4 hours to complete. In the 'season' (December to April), there are plenty of teahouses on the way up for refreshments, and many of the pilgrims are infirm elders who make it to the top come what may! So, the choice is yours...

Tikalanka seems to be concerned about the environment, discreet travel and intelligent tourism. We like this. How many people maximum would go on a guided tour?

Each holiday is organised for you, and only you, so you will travel around the island on your own with a dedicated Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority-licensed chauffeur guide with a/c transport. This means that you enjoy the holiday you want to experience without having to compromise yourself. We specialise in private tailor-made holidays in Sri Lanka and believe that travellers should be encouraged to experience the 'real' Sri Lanka, which means enjoying the island's historic sites, varied and plentiful wildlife, beautiful scenery, colourful and passionate festivals, and the people's genuine hospitality.

Do you organise holidays to Maldives?

Holidays to Maldives with Tikalanka are included with a holiday to Sri Lanka as well. Most of our customers visit Maldives at the end of their Sri Lanka holiday.

With incredible underwater visibility, warm ocean temperatures throughout the year, and some of the best dive sites, sun-drenched beaches and spa resorts in the world, Maldives offers you a truly unrivalled tropical island experience. Our resorts in Maldives are specially selected for their character, quality and ambiance. 

I am not very adventurous about foreign food. Is it possible to go for 2-3 weeks on fairly conservative food for most of the time?

Sri Lankan food is delicious, with much of it vegan and organically grown. However, for many Western palates it is too spicy, although the spiciness is toned down automatically for foreigners. The quality and variety of vegetables and fruit are fantastic - I can vouch for that as I follow a vegan diet - and the fish and seafood at the coast is fresh, varied and of top quality, too. The meat - chicken, pork and beef, with a little mutton (goat) - is eaten all over the island and again is generally of good quality at the places you will stay and eat at.

What is typically served at breakfast and dinner?

Breakfast served in hotels and guesthouses is usually European style with tea/coffee, eggs, fruit, toast and fruit juice/cordial. However, as with all meals on the island, a real Sri Lankan breakfast is a feast of its own. Idiappa (string hoppers - similar to vermicelli but made with rice flour), egg hoppers (bowl-shaped pancakes with fried egg), pittu (a rice flour and shredded coconut mixture similar to a coarser type of cous-cous), kiri bath (coconut rice), roti (stuffed bread) and the full accompaniments of creamy coconut sauces and sambols (spicy chutneys) are just a few of the delicacies on offer at breakfast time. Dinner is normally a choice of rice and curry - the national dish - various noodle dishes, devilled - which means meat or fish cooked in a rich tomato and onion gravy and normally spicy but you can ask for it to be toned down - and Chinese food is common all over the island. Western dishes are also available in the tourist areas.

As the tour is for us only, how does it work out with our chauffeur guide? Does he have meals with us? Does he leave us till he is needed again?

In both Sri Lanka and India, unlike other Asian countries, a very well structured chauffeur guide system has been set up. Although there are many travel companies offering this service, we only employ English-speaking, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority-licensed chauffeur guides. This means they have passed a stringent exam after following a comprehensive 4- to 6-month course run by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. The usual format is for him to drive and guide you during the days when there are excursions, and to leave you at peace on leisure days. He also eats separately from you on most occasions since his meals are provided free by most guesthouses and hotels. Remember that it is your holiday and so you choose when and where you travel, and how much interaction you want with your chauffeur guide.

We are uneasy about the situation with the chauffeur guide. I cannot imagine just treating him as a servant (an attitude more appropriate to the days of Empire) BUT neither do we see clearly how he can be like a third person on holiday with us. How do people generally deal with this situation?

Yes, I can imagine it must seem funny to have a dedicated chauffeur guide with you for your whole trip. I totally agree with you regarding the apparent old-Raj mentality of having your own chauffeur guide. However, all of our guides are professional, knowledgeable and friendly, and they take pride and pleasure in showing you the best of their country. They are all paid at above industry rates and well looked after by us and the various hotels and guesthouses. Our philosophy is to enable foreign travellers to get beneath the skin of Sri Lanka by being shown around by a local on their own private, escorted holiday rather than on a more impersonal, bus-laden package tour. We feel that this enhances your experiences of the island and allows you to see the real Sri Lanka.

As far as how you relate to your chauffeur guide on a daily basis, then that is totally dependent on personalities and individuals. How much time you spend with your chauffeur guide outside of the actual trips and excursions is purely up to you. Our chauffeur guides are paid professionals and so are used to adapting to the wishes of the foreign travellers they are showing around. They are friendly and hospitable and will make you feel relaxed and on holiday!

In your experience, do you find that UK tourists meet travellers easily, if they are travelling on their own tailor-made holiday?

Although you will be travelling separately from other travellers on your own private tour, there is plenty of opportunity to meet up with other like-minded people at guesthouses and hotels, and during the day on your various side trips. Everyone is on holiday and so the mood is relaxed and most people are very amenable to having a chat. Having said that, in recent years many travellers seem to be more interested in engaging with their mobile device than interacting with other guests so you may have a problem prying them away from their mobile phones for a chat!

Presumably, you offer advice on vaccinations, general health, insurance, etc?

All of the information you require is on our website. Please go to Essential Information for more details. We also have an information sheet for our travellers which is sent to you once a booking is confirmed.

What are the road conditons like in Sri Lanka?

Although Sri Lanka is a small island, you must appreciate that many minor roads are still of poor quality, single-lane each way (at best), and populated with all kinds of 'traffic' - cows, dogs, bullock carts, bicycles, scooters, paddy tractors, motorcycles, vans, cars, lorries, buses, pedestrians etc - which slows the average speed to 30-40 km per hour. In the Hill Country, the roads can be tortuous - very windy, and in some areas they are a series of hair-pin bends going on for many miles - and so you need to be patient when travelling on the road! Therefore, we suggest that you gauge the length of your journey by time rather than distance - see our Trip Planner for more details. When you book, we include approximate travel times in your itinerary.

However, in recent years, there is a developing network of expressways (toll road motorways) on the island which have speeded up road travel dramatically. The Southern Expressway, from Bandaranaike International Airport south around the island to Hambantota in the southeast corner near Yala, was the first toll road motorway completed. In the past, the journery from the airport to Yala would have taken anything up to 12 hours on bone-shaking narrow roads; now the journey along silky smooth dual carriageways takes about 4.5 hours! The Central Expressway, from the airport into the Cultural Triangle, is under development. 

How much time will we spend in the vehicle per day?

Obviously, the choice is yours since you can create your own tailor-made holiday online using our sophisticated and user-friendly Trip Planner. However, we suggest a maximum of 3-4 hours driving in one day so that you will have more time to enjoy the country out of the vehicle.

Do you have advice on travel insurance companies?

It is a prerequisite of booking with Tikalanka that you take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling to Sri Lanka and Maldives. Please go to Travel Insurance for more information.

Any information on tipping, camera permits, clothing needs, easy availability of bottled water and likely 'safe' options for lunches, snacks, etc in various places?

All of this information is available on our website, which has been designed as an information resource as well as a marketing platform. If you go to Essential Information you will get all of the information you are looking for. If not, please contact us and we will be more than happy to tell you all about it. However, for your information:

  • Tipping is part of the culture in Sri Lanka and it is expected, mostly unjustly, a lot of the time. However, staff are not generally paid a very good wage and so they supplement their income through tips. It is totally up to you as to when and how much you tip someone, so the choice is yours!
  • Camera permits are no longer necessary. Video permits may still be required at some sites.
  • Clothing advice will be sent on booking.
  • Bottled water is available everywhere, and so long as the seal is not broken, it is safe to drink. It is advisable not to drink the tap water. To be more eco-friendly, it is better to take your own reuseable drinking bottle and refill the bottle from the filtered water system at your accommodation.
  • Lunches and snacks will be taken at local places to give you a feel for the country, its culture and its cuisine. Your guide will ensure that you visit 'safe', clean and hygienic places at all times.

What about the humidity - does it affect the average British person adversely?

The humidity only really affects people around the coastline, particularly around the southwest coast, where most people are relaxing anyway and so it does not impinge upon their day-to-day activities too much. The Hill Country is cool and not humid, and the ancient cities' area (Cultural Triangle) hot and not generally humid. Travel will be by air-conditioned vehicle, and air-conditioning is available at most places to stay.

What is the attitude of locals to foreigners taking photographs of local markets, children, temples, Buddha statues, etc?

Sri Lanka is an incredibly photogenic country. Buildings, markets, wildlife and scenery make for great photos, and like most countries, the locals are generally relaxed about foreigners taking photos. Photographing temples, statues and Buddhas are also fine so long as you do not pose in front of them. Photographing people is a very individual thing. I am especially careful about taking photos of local people and will only do it if they ask to be photographed or if I think the atmosphere is right. I never take photos of monks, unless they are friends of mine, and will not take any photos of people without asking their permission first. Please go to Travelling Sri Lanka for more details.

Do you have any testimonials or statements from people who have enjoyed your holidays?

We have comprehensive testimonials on our website. Please go to Feedback for more details.

If we booked soon, would we need to get on fast with inoculations?

The recommended vaccinations for Sri Lanka and Maldives are COVID-19, Hepatitis A, Poliomyelitis, Tetanus and Typhoid. You can generally get these done within a month at your local GP, or even quicker at a specialist travel clinic, but they will cost you more. We recommend that all of our customers seek expert medical advice BEFORE travelling to Sri Lanka and Maldives. There is a very low risk of malaria in the areas of Sri Lanka where we travel and there is no risk of malaria in Maldives. Dengue is known or presumed to occur in Sri Lanka and Maldives. 

Are the ancient sites very busy with tourists?

The major ancient sites are wonderful places to explore and you are quite safe when walking around the sites on your own, although you may be pestered by local vendors. Tikalanka designs the visits to these sites to get away from crowds, although sometimes it is impossible as you can imagine. Also, we time the visits so that you experience special ceremonies or get a better feeling for the atmosphere of the place.

Is there a better/worse time of day to visit?

The major ancient sites are wonderful places to explore and you are quite safe when walking around the sites on your own, although you may be pestered by local vendors. Tikalanka designs the visits to these sites to get away from crowds, although sometimes it is impossible as you can imagine. Also, we time the visits so that you experience special ceremonies or get a better feeling for the atmosphere of the place.

Would it be fairly safe to wander round the main sites on our own?

The major ancient sites are wonderful places to explore and you are quite safe when walking around the sites on your own, although you may be pestered by local vendors. Tikalanka designs the visits to these sites to get away from crowds, although sometimes it is impossible as you can imagine. Also, we time the visits so that you experience special ceremonies or get a better feeling for the atmosphere of the place.

What form of transport is used on the tours and between hotels?

We use private cars and 'vans' (minibuses/people carriers) to take you around the island. All vehicles are fully air-conditioned and driven by experienced, English-speaking chauffeur guides who are all licensed by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

How much flexibility is there in the tours? Can we stop along the way to look at something in more detail?

The holiday is yours, so stop as often and for as long as you like, obviously without affecting your other activities! Our chauffeur guides are very experienced in taking foreign travellers around Sri Lanka and enjoy giving you an indepth and enlightened feel for the country.

I suffer from a fish allergy (but not all seafood). Is fish eaten a lot in Sri Lanka? How much choice is there on the menus?

Fish and seafood are staple foodstuffs at the coast. Having said that, all coastal and inland hotels and restaurants offer a variety of different cuisine so you should have no problem staying clear of fish. However, curry sauces frequently have Maldive Fish added so please ALWAYS ask the serving staff and chef for advice.

Is there any restriction on when the tour can begin/end?

All of our holidays are tailor made to suit your wishes so your holiday will start and end when YOU choose.

What are the chances of seeing turtles while on our holiday?

The commercial turtle hatcheries along the southwest coast around Kosgoda were totally destroyed by the Asian Tsunami of 2004 but have now recovered, although we do not visit these hatcheries due to concerns for animal welfare. The Turtle Conservation Project at Rekawa near Tangalle on the south coast sustained minimal damage, and Green and Olive Ridley turtles are back on the beach laying eggs, with the laying season from January to July. However, due to mismanagement and the inappropriate behaviour of other visitors we no longer visit it. 

What activities are there that will keep two active boys content?

Climbing up Lion Rock at Sigiriya, a trek to World's End and swimming in the Indian Ocean for starters! Also, climbing the hill to the cave temples of Dambulla, exploring the medieval capital at Polonnaruwa, where you can take a leisurely stroll or bike ride through the ruined temples and palaces, a jeep safari to see wild animals at one of Sri Lanka's many national parks, and walking around the ramparts of the Dutch Fort at Galle. If you want something more adventurous, then an overnight stay in a tented camp on the edge of Yala National Park, and an early morning jeep safari the following day may be just the ticket. Many other activities are also possible. Log in to our Trip Planner and have a look!

Do we need to take mosquito nets or does everywhere we are staying provide them?

All of the accommodation provides mosquito nets, where necessary.

Should we be taking walking boots - are any of the walks particularly strenuous?

I would recommend taking walking boots for places like Adam's PeakWorld's EndKelani Valley Forest Trails and Sinharaja.

Relating to dengue mosquitoes, how prevalent are they - should we be covering up during the day?

Dengue fever is prevalent in Sri Lanka, particularly after the monsoon season, and it is always recommended to protect yourselves from insect bites, day and night. Please seek further expert medical advice before you travel.

Regarding religious sensitivities, should we be covering up generally or just when we visit temples, and do the rules apply to children?

Sri Lankans attach a lot of importance to polite behaviour and proper appearance. Cleanliness and modesty are appreciated even in informal situations. Children in Sri Lanka are also expected to follow the same principles. Visitors to Buddhist and Hindu temples are welcome although the shrines of Hindu temples are normally closed to non-Hindus. Visitors should be dressed decently in long skirts or trousers - shorts, singlets and swimwear are not suitable. Shoes should be left at the entrance and heads should be uncovered. Please go to Local Laws & Customs for more details. 

At the end of the tour, what size of tip should we be giving our chauffeur guide? (just so we don't embarrass ourselves or him!)

We send an information sheet on travelling around the island, which includes tipping, with your departure information. We recommend about GB£10 per day as a tip for our chauffeur guides, but of course please give more if you have especially enjoyed your time with him!

How should we take our money - US$ or UK£ travellers cheques? Which currency is more readily accepted?

Pounds Sterling (GB£) is the best currency to take. I use Sterling cash and ATMs (cashpoints) while I am in Sri Lanka; travellers' cheques are NOT accepted. All of the major places you will be staying at have banks with ATMs so I would recommend taking Sterling cash and your cashpoint cards, but please ensure that they will be accepted in Sri Lanka by contacting your bank before you travel. Please go to Money for more details.

It would be useful if we could see what the accommodation looks like - do you have some examples?

Please log on to our tailor-made Trip Planner and then go to the particular location you are interested in to see photos and descriptions of all of the accommodation we offer.